Did The Russians COPY the B-29 Bomber?

I caught a bit of the story on the History Channel, about the Russians copying the Boeing B-29bomber, in the 1950’s.Three B-29s landed in Vladivostok, in 1945 (they made emergency landings after a raid on japan). Apparently, Stalin decided that the fastest way to have his own 4-engine bombers was to copy the B-29. Given the backward state of Soviet technology, how hard was this to do?Dd the Russians also get the Norden Bombsights from these planes? I also liked the part about the russian engineer who knew that his failure top produce wouldmean death or exile to Siberia…he shot himself.
As the showpointedout…Stalin got his bombers…but the palnes were essentially obsolete by 1956. Howber, did these palnes design find their way into Soviet commercial airliners?

It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest - after all, they tried to copy Concorde, without having the luxury of a stolen plane to work from.

Yup, it was the TU-4 that was reverse-engineered from the B-29. The airliner development was the TU-70.

According to Wikipedia, perhaps as many as 15 are still in service with the Chinese air force. (I seem to remember that they’ve been modified to serve an AWACs role, though.)

I saw that show. In the end it was little more than a big PR coup for Stalin. He rolled them out in front of US delegates at a Soviet airshow. We knew they had 3 of our bombers so Stalin triumphantly watched as four B-29s flew overhead.

However, according to the show, the resources required to disassemble, convert to metric, retool and build the “Bull” would have been much better used for a more modern, Soviet design. The B-29 was obsolete before they even began copying it.

Don’t forget they also copied the Space Shuttle

Oh, and an interesting side-note from the cite… the huge cost of doing so was very likely a factor in the fall of the Soviet Union itself.

Yep. The Tu-somedarnnumber was a copy made of a number of US B-29s that had to land in neutral Soviet Russia. ("In Soviet Russia, the B-29 lands on YOU!)

In any case, they trained up a bunch of engineers in the American system of measures and went to work. The result got the NATO reporting name 'Bull." Some were transfered to China, where a couple are still used for upper-atmosphere research having to do with their nuclear program.

In any case, only one real B-29 still flies (‘Fifi,’ from the Confederate Air Force). I sort of hope that a few Bulls might still be in the air.

Smithsonian Air & Space Magazineprovides more of the story than you may have wanted to know.

This reminds me of a quote from Stargate where the Russian diplomat tells the other diplomats “lets just let the Americans spend billions of dollars and run this program while we reap the rewards”. Probably more truthful than the writer knew, as the whole world benefits from our costly scientific research from engineering to medical research.

There have been many stories (some of them myths, of course)about the stealing and reverse-engneering of many products. Take the Russians and airplanes…I wonder how many DEFECTS were actually faithfully copied by the Russian engineers? Of course, having Josef Stalin breathing down your neck would scare anyone! I know that the Russians copied the german BMW motorcycles for years, and the Russian built “LADA” cars were essentially copied FIATS. But the Russian copy of the CONCORD SST-these things must have had serious defects, because they only were flown for a few years. Likewise, I heard that the Tumansky jet engines used on the Russian MIG-21 “FOXBAT” fighter plane were poor copies of a GE engine (which the Russians obtained from Egypt in the 1950’s). In reverse-engineering this engine, they had a problem-they could not obtain the cobalt-based high-temperature alloys for the turbine blades, so these Tumansky engines self-destructed afetr a few hundred hours of service.
I also heard once that TOYOTA copied the old Chevrolet 3-speed automatic transmission (the old “Poweglide tranny”). Toyota (supposedly) copied the castings completely-even including the GM markings on the bell housing…they called their copy “Toyotaglide”.
Anybody know how the Russians copied the SpaceShuttle? Did they steal the blueprints somehow?

As long as this thread will be about Soviet clones of US technology, a lot of the Soviet computer industry was based on cloning successful US designs. One that stands out in my mind is the ES EVM, the clone of the wildly successful IBM System/360. Information about the 360 wasn’t legally available to the Soviets, so all information used to build the ES EVM was smuggled in.

The Red IBM PC Clone was called the ES PEVM. I guess our blockades were working really well. :wink:

The greatest Soviet stealing story was broken by Safire in the the NYTimes earlier this year


If you don’t want to register basically he says that the CIA hid a bug in oil-pipeline-control software. They knew that the Soviets would steal it and when they did, the bad code caused the trans-Siberian oil pipeline to be destroyed in a huge explosion.

After that, Safire says, “all the software [the Soviet Union] had stolen for years was suddenly suspect, which stopped or delayed the work of thousands of worried Russian technicians and scientists.”

Slight nitpick: Neither the TU-144 (the Russian supersonic transport) nor the Buran (their space shuttle) were, strictly speaking, copies of the western designs that inspired them, although apparently plans stolen from the Concorde project gave the Soviets a leg up on the aerodynamic design of their SST. In both cases, while they shared general aerodynamic features with their western counterparts, their dimensions, the materials from which they were made, their engines and control systems, all were considerably different. For example, the Buran, unlike the US shuttle, was capable of being flown entirely unmanned and in fact this was done on its only rocket-launched flight.

A bit more on the Buran:

And the TU-144:

There is also the 3K10 Granat (NATO Designation: SS N 21 “Sampson”), sometimes called the “Tomahawkski,” a knock-off of the American AN/BGM-109 cruise missile.

The show originally mentioned was “Stealing The Superfortress.” I found it interesting that Stalin’s directive to copy it exactly was followed so closely (due to fear of death or exile to Siberia) that even some damaged sections from the original were replicated into the copy.

Something that I think some posters have missed from that article is that the copying of mistakes/damage was not simple-minded rote duplication. It was an intentional choice by Tupolev and the other designers. The secret police that Stalin and Beria had watching the project couldn’t have hoped to know if the internal components were the same, but they could easily look at the exterior. The NKVD inspectors would report satisfactorily to their superiors that Stalin’s orders were being carried out to the letter.

By putting identical patches into the TU-4, Tupolev ensured himself some freedom from harrassment. Internally, he made changes to the systems he thought he could do better. There were also changes required by different tooling. So, for instance, the skin of the TU-4 differed from the standard US English thickness, and was varied over the surface. This actually resulted in a slightly stronger and lighter airframe than the Boeing.

Didn’t Toyota also copy the Chevy “Stovebolt” straight-6?

I believe a Doper also in the past recalled how Chrysler designed its inline four bangers (in the K-Cars) directly from the four banger originally supplied by Volkswagen…copied so faithfully that some Chrysler and VW parts are interchangable!

The Kalashnikov AK-47 (most widely used assault rifle of all time, and more likely than not to be used by the enemies of the US) was patently and obviously copied by the Russians from the WWII German Sturmgewehr 44.
Maybe the most successful military copy of all time, to the victors go the spoils…naja.

This is not so.

Kalashnakov may have been provided some impetus by the StG44, but internally, they’re radically different. Even externally, the two rifles have only a passing resemblance.

In fact, if you read the page you cited, the cite specifically states that the two weapons are different.